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State of the Rockies


Colorado College’s State of the Rockies project encourages students to explore critical environmental and social challenges of the Rocky Mountain West. Through faculty led research and out-of-classroom experiences, students gain an appreciation of the region’s physical characteristics and the impact of human land use activities while employing an inter-disciplinary approach to finding balance between human activity and our environment.                                             

Rockies 2020 Photo Contest

WINNING PHOTOS:  Judges name 1ST - 3RD places

Results in for Popular Vote WINNER  

View the 2020 Conservation in the West student photo contest entries.


2019 State of the Rockies
Conservation in the West Student Photography
Contest Winner:  

Andrew Hillenbrand


Conservation in the West poll

  Winter Sunrise at Mesa Arch, Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Photo by Stephen Weaver

Conservation in the West poll shines light on western voters' conservation concerns: bipartisan public opinion survey tracks 10 years of survey results

by Josie McCauley, '21

This February 20, 2020 the State of the Rockies Project celebrated the release of the 2020 Conservation in the West Poll Results during the 2020 Future of the West Symposium, with students, faculty, community members, and stakeholders all present.

Montana Governor Steve Bullock delivered the opening keynote address, emphasizing the unique connection Westerners have with the land and the importance of conserving such areas.  

GovBullock podiumFEB2020

Poll results were delivered by Lori Weigel of New Bridge Strategy and Dave Metz of FM3 Research. Through 3,200 telephone interviews in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming, researchers determined climate change to be the first or second most important environmental problem for each state. Poll results demonstrate an escalating public concern for climate change and climate and conservation related issues across the West, with with two-thirds indicating it to be a serious problem. 71% of Western voters believe removing the Clean Water Act protections was a bad decision, including a majority of voters across the political spectrum and rural voters. To see more poll results and data visualizations, click here (

Montana Governor Steve Bullock addresses
Colorado College students, faculty, staff, and
guests.   Photo by Jennifer Coombes

An expert panel on The Future of Public Lands, discussed issues concerning equity in conservation, cultural connection to the land, and access to the outdoors, especially in more urban areas. Panelists included Maite Arce, President of Hispanic Access Foundation, Collin O-Mara, President of the National Wildlife Federation, Corina McKendry, Faculty Director of State of the

Rockies Project, Len Necefer, Professor at University of Arizona and Founder of Natives Outdoors, and Jennifer Rokala, Executive at Center for Western Priorities.

JosieMcCauleyNETWORKING2020polleventStudents and faculty members engaged with conservation professionals from Conservation Colorado, Center for Western Priorities, the Hispanic Access Foundation and other western and national organizations. New Mexico Senator Tom Udall concluded the symposium with another keynote address, emphasizing the importance of conserving our wild lands for future generations.

Lively lunch conversations filled the main space of
Cornerstone Arts Center, Colorado College campus.
Photo by Josie McCauley
Colorado College students mingle and network with
environmental professionals during the State of the Rockies
Future of the West Symposium on February 20, 2020.
Photo by Josie McCauley

Rockies 2020-2021 Project

Urbanization and Nature on the Front Range

Colorado's population is one of the fastest growing in the United States. Though many people are drawn here for the natural beauty and outdoor recreational opportunities offered in the state, rapid growth is putting pressure on these same resources. Climate change is further straining the state’s environment, and drought, floods, and forest fires threaten many of Colorado’s communities. Our current research explores the relationships among urbanization, nature, and climate change in Colorado.

One area of research we are undertaking looks at local and statewide initiatives to reduce carbon emissions through changing electricity production and transportation infrastructure. Research fellows are examining green transportation initiatives, particularly efforts to increasing electric vehicles across the state and local policies to enhance cycling infrastructure, both of which can improve public health and reduce the environmental impact of personal mobility. We are also examining efforts to reduce the cost and environmental impact of local energy production. As electricity production and transportation are major sources of greenhouse gas emissions in Colorado, these efforts have important implications for the overall environmental impact of our urban areas.

We are also examining ways that communities are preparing for a changing climate. This aspect of our research is examining the community assets that have helped agriculture dependent counties enhance resiliency in the face of drought and other threats to rural livelihoods; the variety of water transfer methods cities are adopting to secure a long-term urban water supply while supporting the needs of farmers and agricultural communities; and the political and technical challenges of city storm water management.

Overall, this year’s State of the Rockies project seeks to illuminate ways that actors in Colorado are rethinking our relationship to a changing climate and to understand how these changes can be built upon to create a more resilient region.


Rockies Research

MEET the Rockies 2019-2020 Research Fellows

FellowsWebshot 19.20

Check their blog bulletins as they explore the challenges of changing climatic conditions in the Rocky Mountain Front Range

Rockies fellows share their research at the 2020 Rocky Mountain Land Use Institute Conference

Fellows Natalie Gubbay and Grace Harmon presented their research at the 2020 University of Denver Sturm College of Law RMLUI conference.  This year, the conference aimed to integrate land use and water planning.  Harmon's and Gubbay's research focuses on regional perceptions and challenges of urban and agricultural water demands.

Rockies fellows SCORE at CC's 2019 Family and Friends Weekend faculty-student researchSCORE19.20 conference

State of the Rockies fellows presented their summer projects during this year's Student Collaborative Research Experience (SCORE) conference.  The Fellows' researched various topics across the Rocky Mountain Front Range  -- from bike lane controversies in Colorado Springs to drought response in agricultural communities in eastern Colorado.  Family and friends joined students, faculty, and staff in CC's Cornerstone Arts Center for this summer research symposium held annually during CC's Friends and Family Weekend.  View the fellows' posters:


Project Partners

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Changing Climate, Changing Lives


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